NASA rover Curiosity fulfills dream, drills into Mars clay

There's a new hole in the red planet, and this one is extra special.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The Curiosity rover drilled into this clay-bearing unit on Mars.


The Curiosity rover is living its best life on Mars. NASA chose the Gale Crater as the vehicle's stomping ground in part because of the siren call of the crater's "clay-bearing unit." The rover has now finally drilled into that area, nearly seven years after landing on the red planet.

"Don't let your dreams be dreams," the rover team tweeted. "I finally got beneath the surface of those clays. Science to come."

"This is a moment that the mission has been waiting for since Gale Crater was chosen as our landing site," wrote Curiosity team member Scott Guzewich in a mission update. 

The bedrock target is nicknamed "Aberlady." Curiosity will investigate the drill hole and composition of the rock powder as it seeks to learn more about this region of Mars. 

When NASA announced in 2011 that Gale Crater would be Curiosity's home away from home, the space agency highlighted the likely history of water in the region and how it plays into the search for signs of organic compounds.

"Certain minerals, including some Curiosity may find in the clay and sulfate-rich layers near the bottom of Gale's mountain, are good at latching onto organic compounds and protecting them from oxidation," NASA said at the time. Curiosity now finally has its chance for a closer look. 

This is a time of great excitement for scientists and Mars fans alike. Curiosity has weathered technical glitches and damaged wheels to get here. This new chapter, carved into clay, is just beginning. 

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